Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women, and Queer Radicals

Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women, and Queer Radicals

A breathtaking exploration of the lives of young black women in the early twentieth century.

In Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments, Saidiya Hartman examines the revolution of black intimate life that unfolded in Philadelphia and New York at the beginning of the twentieth century. Free love, common-law and transient marriages, serial partners, cohabitation outside of wedlock, queer relations, and single motherhood were among the sweeping changes that altered the character of everyday life and challenged traditional Victorian beliefs about courtship, love, and marriage. Hartman narrates the story of this radical social transformation against the grain of the prevailing century-old argument about the crisis of the black family.

In wrestling with the question of what a free life is, many young black women created forms of intimacy and kinship that were indifferent to the dictates of respectability and outside the bounds of law. They cleaved to and cast off lovers, exchanged sex to subsist, and revised the meaning of marriage. Longing and desire fueled their experiments in how to live. They refused to labor like slaves or to accept degrading conditions of work.

Beautifully written and deeply researched, Wayward Lives recreates the experience of young urban black women who desired an existence qualitatively different than the one that had been scripted for them—domestic service, second-class citizenship, and respectable poverty—and whose intimate revolution was apprehended as crime and pathology. For the first time, young black women are credited with shaping a cultural movement that transformed the urban landscape. Through a melding of history and literary imagination, Wayward Lives recovers their radical aspirations and insurgent desires.

Title:Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women, and Queer Radicals
Edition Language:English
ISBN:9780393357622
Format Type:

    Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women, and Queer Radicals Reviews

  • Alok Vaid-Menon

    Wayward Lives cements Dr. Hartman as one of the preeminent intellectuals of our time. It is one of the most compelling feminist studies I have read. This book is an actualization of Hartman’s “cri...

  • Michael

    Lyrical and mesmerizing, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments recounts the experiments in social arrangements young black women conducted in New York and Philadelphia during the first decades of the t...

  • Joshunda Sanders

    This is a glorious read about Black women whose inner lives and external manifestations of those rich journeys has not been documented with such grace, context and beauty across fluid genders or sexua...

  • Alwynne

    There’s something near-archaeological in the way Saidiya Hartman’s sifts through shards of evidence to recreate the lives of primarily-urban, black women in early 20th-century America – with a f...

  • Katya Kazbek

    It's so rare and beautiful to read a book that just oozes information and ideas that you hadn't come across before, and even though reading this was not always easy, I was in for a spectacular treat. ...

  • Sarah Schulman

    It took me. a long time to read this book because it is so deep, the intimate tone requires the reader's attention, and its unique accomplishment startles while the writing lingers. Hartman reveals a ...

  • fatma

    3.5 stars"The wild idea that animates this book is that young black women were radical thinkers who tirelessly imagined other ways to live and never failed to consider how the world might be otherwise...

  • Obsidian

    I loved this though I found the audio a bit hard to get into. I would prefer the book, but it cost a bit more than I was willing to pay. My library had the audio so I got this. I thought the themes th...

  • Sabrina

    A book that I feel like more people should read because of the unique historical context to archival records that it provides, while also remaining extremely culturally relevant in terms of police vio...

  • Daniel Teehan

    I have both too much and truly not enough to say about this work - this bold, marvelous project - so I'll suffice with what is the easiest: everyone should read Saidiya Hartman....